Witness evidence is often key in Florida sex crime cases. In a recent case out of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal, the court examined some of the common legal questions that come up related to witness credibility.
The defendant was charged with sexual battery on a victim less than 12 years old. The charge stemmed from an incident in which he allegedly molested a family friend. The court said the defendant was close with the victim’s family and often visited her home. He told a judge that on the morning in question, he arrived at the home high on drugs and lay down next to the victim in the living room. The victim’s father testified that he entered the living room and saw the victim with the defendant’s penis in her mouth.
The defendant told the judge that he fell asleep on the couch and woke up to find that the victim was performing oral sex on him. He said the victim’s father walked in just as he woke up. The victim gave a different account of the incident. She told the judge that the defendant woke her up, grabbed her by the head, and forced her to put his penis in her mouth. But the victim told her mother only that her father walked into the room and saw the victim with the defendant’s penis in her mouth. She didn’t tell her mother that the defendant forced himself on her. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The jury returned the verdict in 12 minutes.
The defendant later appealed the decision, arguing that he should have been allowed to call a witness to impeach the victim’s mother’s testimony. He said the mother was not a credible source. That’s because, according to the defendant, some of the mother’s testimony wasn’t compatible with some of the things she told a child services investigator. Specifically, the mother allegedly told the defendant she didn’t have much knowledge of the situation. He said the trial judge wrongly declined to extend the proceedings so that the child services investigator could testify to what the mother told the investigator.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the First District said the judge didn’t err by declining to extend the proceedings. The court noted that the defendant himself admitted to what the mother said the victim told her: that the victim’s father saw the victim with the defendant’s penis in her mouth. “Because there was competent, substantial evidence supporting the reliability of the statement at issue, the trial court did not abuse its discretion,” the court said.
If you or a loved one has been charged with sexual battery or another sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Clearwater sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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